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Fred Meijer Heartland Trail (Montcalm Co., MI) Report and more Polar RS800 woes

skatey-mark's picture

I'm up in Michigan right now visiting the family and finally got to try out a new greenway trail that's been on my list for at least a year.  It's relatively new and smack-dab in the middle of the state.  Fortunately, my parents live very close to it now, so it was only a 20-minute drive to get there.


The trail is called the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail.  It's currently a work in progress.  The completed trail will be 41 miles long and stretch from Alma to Greenville.  There are two paved sections right now.  I think one is approximately 9-10 miles long and runs through Riverdale.  I skated the other section, which is 17 miles long and starts in Edmore, MI.


Parking at the trail head is a bit limited, but there is also a park nearby with more parking, and a sidewalk runs from the park to the trail.  The pavement quality was really good.  Not as smooth as the American Tobacco Trail in Durham, NC (which is super-smooth blacktop.)  But it was as smooth as most roads that you'd consider "smooth".  The beginning of the trail was basically a green "hallway".  The vegetation on the side of the trail was tall enough that you really couldn't see anything.  After a few miles, though, it cleared out a bit and you could actually enjoy a bit of the scenic countryside.


The trail cuts through some *very* rural areas of Michigan ("scenic rural", not "deliverance rural"...)  But the pavement quality never suffered.  HOWEVER, after the first couple miles, most of the roads that the trail crossed were dirt/gravel.  I was pretty conservative on the way out, slowing to almost a stop on each one.  But they were all packed down pretty well, so on the way back I'd slow down a little bit to check traffic, then just scissor my skates and coast out into the road...   A few crossings had a lot of sand, so those were a bit trickier.  But the road crossings were a minor incovenience at best.


There were two wooden bridges also, both is very good shape and easily traversed by skates.  (They were in better shape than some of the bridges on ATT, but they're also newer...  We'll see what kind of condition they're in a few years from now.)


Options for provisioning on the trail are very limited.  The trail head in Edmore has a few options.  The trail goes through another town, Stanton, which has a McDonald's *right* next to the trail, but nothing else obvious in sight.  (Might be good for an ice cream break...)  At the terminus of the trail, there's *nothing*.  In fact, it's a rather abrupt end.  Just what appears to be another road crossing, but there's no (paved) trail on the other side.  The last 5 miles to Greenville are apparently not done yet.


Speaking of the road crossings, they are all marked very well, with "stop ahead" signs well in advance.  There are a few driveways that cross the trail, and some of them are marked, some aren't.  There are also mile markers painted at the edge of the trail, although they're a bit hard to spot.  One section in the middle had posts with mileage on them, which was nice.  I don't remember the total number of road crossings, but I think it was probably less than ten.  There were several sections that went multiple miles between roads.  So you can definitely stretch your legs a bit without having to worry about constantly slowing down for the next road.


I don't have an exact mileage for the trail, because my stupid Polar RS800 still isn't recording my GPS data.  The GPS is working, because it will show my current speed.  But it doesn't show my mileage.  And when I upload the data to the computer, there's no speed or distance data.  I'm going to try to reset it to the factory defaults before my next skate and see if that fixes the problem.  If that doesn't work, I'll be calling tech support.


The trail wasn't too busy...  A few runners and a few casual cyclists.  There was only one cyclist that passed me the whole time.  I chatted with him a bit at the turnaround, and then again back at the trail head.  He's the one that told me it was 34 miles round-trip.  I'll be interested to see the elevation data for the course, since I could swear it was a slight uphill grade on the way out, but it felt just as tough coming back!  (This is a rail-trail so it's essentially flat the whole way...)


I've heard good things about the other (shorter) section of trail, and I may try that out during the week.  Next weekend, I'm going to do this same (17 mile) section twice, to give me a 68-mile skate.  I'll be doing that at a much more leisurely pace.  I think my rolling average was 15+ mph, but it worked out to 13.4 (I think) with all the slowing down for the intersections. 


If you happen to live in mid Michigan, I definitely recommend checking out the trail.  Hopefully they'll connect the two paved sections within the next few years, to have a very long stretch of greenway for everyone to enjoy...


Here's some information on the trail:


http://www.montcalm.org/fmht.asp  (official site)

http://www.montcalm.org/downloads/meijer_trail_mapwebsite.pdf  (map - *NOT* to scale...) 


- SM - 


Edmore, Michigan
United States
43° 24' 28.9584" N, 85° 2' 17.0124" W


skatey-mark's picture

Polar RS800 w/ G3 GPS Sensor - possible fix for distance problem

After some digging, I finally found what appears to be a fix for the problem where my HRM is displaying my speed, but not the distance. http://forum.polar.fi/showthread.php?t=3620 The fix: Pull the battery out of the GPS sensor for a while and it should fix it. I'll try it sometime in the next couple days and report my results... Interestingly, the watch is actually storing the GPS points! So I can still transfer the data to Google Earth and view the track... Seems like it would be a simple thing for it to recalculate the speed data from the GPS data. For that matter, it seems like a waste of memory to store the speed separately when it can just be created from the GPS data. - SM -
eebee's picture

Great info about the trail!

Thanks for the write up about the trail. I hope you get to go out again and test the other sections! It looks beautiful in the photos.
roadskater's picture

gpsvisualizer too perhaps

As mentioned elsewhere here, it'd be worthwhile perhaps to check gpsvisualizer.com and see if you can create a speed map and elevation profile (using NASA data derived from your gps points). The speed maps are great for pointing out where you stop or slow considerably. Thanks for adding to the knowledge on the trail and the gps/hrm. If you get it all figured out I'm sure a new article on the unit would be welcomed by future holiday shoppers everywhere! And A2A is a holiday, right?
eebee's picture

It should be...a five-day

It should be...a five-day holiday!
skatey-mark's picture

Good call on gpsvisualizer.com

It took a while, but I was able to get a speed-colored version of my map. I had to re-generate the gpx file and have it calculate the speed between each gps coordinate. It wouldn't plot the speed unless there were actual nodes in the gps file. Not a huge deal... The RS800 doesn't save elevation data in the gps file -- it stores it in the heart rate file, based on the barometric sensor. So I also had it estimate the elevation based on the NASA data. But the resulting elevation profile was completely flat. Of course, this is a rail trail, so it *is* pretty flat. It'll be interesting to see what it looks like when I can pull in the BikeFest or Cup 'n Cone data. My web server is down at the moment, and facebook sucks for sharing photos. So I'll get some map images posted once I get my web server back up. - SM -
skatey-mark's picture

modifying gpx file has no effect in Polar ProTrainer

Well, I was hoping that, once I had used gpsvisualizer.com to recreate my speed data, that it would be picked up by the Polar ProTrainer software and show my speed plotted on my heart rate graph. Sadly, this was not the case. It seems that PPT only uses information in the HRM file to generate graphs. So, that's where it is looking for the speed/distance information. The GPX file is only used for displaying the track on Google Earth, nothing else. Given that losing the speed/distance data is a known problem with the RS800, it would be nice to see a feature added to PPT to import the data from the GPX file. If I had unlimited free time, I'd just write some software to merge the speed data into the HRM file... But that's not likely to happen any time soon... - SM -
roadskater's picture

You Might Have a Feature Suggestion for GPSVisualizer

I think it's worth an email explaining the problem to the GPSVisualizer.com author. He seems to like data conversions and this seems like a useful one that would bring him traffic and perhaps donations. In fact, I wonder if he might be inspired by a donation. In any case, the Polar GPR/HRM will be a popular item to support, and he has some specific support for Forerunner 305 already (a file splitter utility and Forerunner-specific graph-generation forms). Good luck and please do keep us posted. If you write something and want to pimp it here, or post it here for download, please do.

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